Friday, July 1, 2011

REVIEW: Dead Space 2

Bottom Line: No More a Dark Horse
Score: 8/10

When Dead Space was first announced, no one expected a great game. No long previews were written and the game appeared on a few most anticipated lists. But when the game came out it blew many away. The innovative gameplay, scary atmosphere, deep story, they all pointed to a new masterpiece. The game was a great and enduring work of art. So, the second game attracted a lot of attention before it came out. Now everyone waited for this game and wanted a real thrill. Did the second game rise to the same expectations?

Well, the second game has lost a lot of the magic of the first game, simply because the innovative system of the first game is now familiar. I'm not saying that the second game is bad, or it has disappointed me as a fan of the first game, but I have to mention that the main reason that we first were so shocked by the gameplay was the fact that we had seen nothing like it and now it seems like an old gameplay we've tried. The same goes for the story. Although the first game was scary and engaging because the mystery was so hard to crack and we had to make our way through the game and put the pieces together, now we know all the secrets and ups and downs of the plot, and it seems we're now dealing with a conventional plot.

We can claim that the game franchise can be considered established now. The game is good and it continues strong on the set premier. However, it doesn't move forward. The gameplay and the plot are great, but hugely in debt to the original game. All their charm comes from the first game. It looks like someone who is rich, but has inherited all the wealth from his famous grandpa who had an inspiring “rags to riches” story. Let us examine each part in depth.

Two of the most innovative aspects of the previous game were innovation in HUD and also in combat system. Both unique systems are back in this game.

Instead of a traditional HUD you receive all you need to know with real time gadgets in the game. You have a special suit with plot significance which conveys all information which you need to know about your health. Instead of a traditional health bar your health is determined by the holograms on your suit. You should look at your weapons holograms to determine how much ammo is left, and also you should use your suit to summon a 3D map which is your inventory menu, and this happens in real time.

But the real fun is in the combat system. Strategic dismemberment is back. You have to dismember the enemies to defeat them. It's not a simple matter of headshots, you have to dismember certain body parts for each monster (called Necromorph in the game) in order to kill them. Necromorphs are very intelligent, and very strong and fast, and they are a real challenge. The gaming is intense, exciting, difficult, and rewarding. You will love combat in this game.

Also back are two things: zero-gravity situations and vacuum situation which are nice varieties within the game, and also you have a not too deep upgrading system and you have a varied range of weapons. You have to find some special items called power nodes and use them in benches to upgrade weapons. This is not a deep RPG like upgrade, but it does create a sense of achievement in the gamer. The weapons reflect the fact that Isaac is an engineer and they are interesting and cool. They look different from conventional weapons and are designed greatly and you will enjoy using them. All of these make for a special gameplay.

We also have the ability to choose a difficulty setting. Casual, Normal, Survivalist, Zealot and Hardcore are the difficulty levels of the game. Hardcore mode is unlocked once the game has been completed. It's really a good challenge and it will be a real achievement to complete it because you have only three saves. I personally suggest playing at Survivalist mode which is really difficult but not frustrating.

The general atmosphere and feel of the game is dark and gloomy and scary like the previous game, spiced with some really exciting action sequences.

Maybe the only real new addition is the multiplayer mode, which is interesting and worth trying, but there's nothing mind-blowing about it.

So as you can see the gameplay is the same as the previous game: not better, but thankfully not worse.

The story is suspenseful, engaging, dark and gloomy. We get to know Isaac Clarke better and in a more personal level, and his character has developed into a strong individual. However, the story is the only thing which has moved backwards in comparison with the second game. The plot seems a bit forced and it seems the writers didn't know how to continue the plot of the previous game (and it would be understandable, since the story of the game was pretty much over at the end of the first game) and the pace is also slow, and takes a lot of times to reach a climax. In the middle the story becomes engaging and dark but at the end it loses us again. The ending is very disappointing artistically- I won't spoil it but I mention that it's a forced denouement.

The famous elements of the previous game are back- the psychological horror, deep sense of tragedy, the role of religion, a dystopian look on the future of human race. These elements were really intriguing, but now have lost half the charm because we've seen all of it before.

In addition, I have to point out that the first game had a deep story one could actually analyze. The game was relevant philosophically, and it made great points about religion through a fictional religion called Unitology and it also was politically deep. The second game fails in all that. So, when it comes to the story, this is the major disappointment in this game.

Graphics and Sound:
The first game had great graphics and this game has improved upon it. The graphics enforces the general mood of the game, darkness and depression. The monsters are done very greatly. The game is deliciously violent and great animations of dismemberment and blood splashes are very beautiful (in the aesthetic sense of course). The modeling is also great and human characters look alive and well. The graphics looks realistic and this enforces the scariness. There's a real attention paid to details.

The sound is also great. The music is used scarcely but effectively. Mostly the game is silent and music kicks in when action sequences come along. So you rarely notice the music but it does its job best. And the sound effects are chilling and well done. Each weapon has a specific sound which is interesting and monsters make creepy noises. Also, fascinating voice acting for Isaac.

Maybe if this game followed any other game I would be far less skeptic. Dead Space 2 is fine, great and a must play. It would be unfair to understate the great fun and chilling excitement of experiencing this game. I might end the review with a positive note that this fascinating game is now well established and is no more a dark horse. However, if there's going to be a Dead Space 3, remind them that they will be compared not to a normal survival horror but to one of the great games in the genre. They have one tough act to follow.
Originally published on GameFAQS

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